Called to Mentor

Brandon, a hemophilia mentor, fishing with a young mentee

For Brandon, a 38-year-old man living with hemophilia, mentoring younger men with the bleeding disorder is a calling—he has a deep wish to pass on what he's learned. While he's been at it for longer than he can remember, over the last 5 years or so, the mentoring has often been part of fishing trips he leads through a nonprofit, Cruz's Fishermen.

Brandon talked to Hemophilia ForwardSM about his perspective and commitment to mentoring.


Hemophilia Forward (HF):
Tell us a little bit about yourself.


Brandon:
I was diagnosed with hemophilia when I was 2 years old. I'm a single father with a child who doesn't have hemophilia. He's 7 years old.

I'm a big brother by nature. I have 2 younger brothers, 1 with hemophilia. Mentoring is something that I've been doing all my life.

I help mentor young adults transitioning from high school to college or young adulthood to help them get an early start on independently managing their hemophilia on their own.


HF:
Specifically, what are you doing to help these young men?


Brandon:
I show them how to take care of their own responsibilities. I coach them on how to talk to their doctors. I help them find jobs. I help them develop any passion they might have.

I help them with life skills—how to set up a bank account, making sure they have the correct insurance, going to doctors, getting their prescriptions filled, job interviews, getting prepped for what the world is really like outside of the comfort of their own home, and getting them enrolled in college, if that's an avenue they want to pursue.

As more young men come into my life, many are missing a father figure. So I can play that role as well.


HF:
Where do you meet your mentees?


Brandon:
I meet my mentees at hemophilia symposia. I meet them online. With the nonprofit organization, Cruz's Fishermen, I get a lot of requests to take people out fishing. I get a lot of requests to speak at engagements, hemophilia dinners, and stuff like that.


HF:
What inspired you to do this?


Brandon:
My faith gave me the courage to invest in other people, see the greatness in everybody and just jump out there and help.


HF:
When you're mentoring these young people, what is it that you can give them that they can't get from other adults in their lives?


Brandon:
I've been through their struggles. We go through a lot more than hemophilia. People don't talk about it, but we do. There's learning disabilities, there's anxiety, there's a lot of insecurity, there's depression, there's pain management. In the course of your childhood, you're developing these issues and nobody talks about them. You're living in a bubble.


HF:
In the mentoring you've done, is there a particular story or a theme that stands out?


Brandon:
Overcoming doubt and fear. This story is a constant theme. One young man I mentored, he was so tuned in to his little cocoon—what he was comfortable doing—and that was staying in front of a computer or playing video games, period. I was a gamer at one point, and all that mattered was the game. But the real world hits you.

My job is to get them out of the house. I help them get a job. That's when they start making friends outside of hemophilia. Outside of the game. As young men, they may meet a girlfriend. Money comes into play. They want to go out, meet and greet and impress. And then the real person that is in there starts to emerge.

They need to learn proper mannerisms, how to present themselves in an interview or in front of people, look at people directly in the eye, shake hands with a firm grip. Those are self-esteem things that come into play.


HF:
What advice would you have for someone who may be feeling alone or isolated, kind of stuck in the house, as you said?


Brandon:
I don't want to go the traditional route of saying, ''Hey you're not alone,'' because at that time, you are alone. If you're dealing with it, think always of tomorrow. Always have hope.

You've got to have a dream. And your dream leads into a vision. And your vision leads into a plan. When you have this dream and vision and plan—when you have somewhat of a blueprint of what you want—then you have to take small, incremental steps to get it.

That's where mentoring comes in. You start with that mentor you have a high opinion of, and you talk to them about how they got where they are, and—boom!—they're going to give you a small blueprint.


HF:
Just find one person that you feel comfortable sharing your dream and your vision with, and maybe they can help formulate that plan.


Brandon:
That's correct.


HF:
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?


Brandon:
(Laughing) Hopefully on the Bassmaster Classic tour. But primarily touring around and holding events in the hemophilia community and telling young people how to stay involved and get a hobby outside the house. And demonstrating that by being on the Bassmaster tour.